AS online censorship concerns mount in Thailand, activists in the country released a document Wednesday that purportedly details a meeting in which government officials urged Google staff to comply with content removal requests without waiting for court orders.
Thai online freedom advocates was responsible for uploading the document on Facebook. It allegedly describes a meeting between the government’s self-styled “Media Reform Committee” and Google Vice President General Counsel Matt Sucherman, reported Khaosod English.
As the document told it, the Thai committee wanted Google to circumvent its usual censorship process – meaning, to speedily expunge content flagged as illegal by the government without receiving a go-ahead from the courts.
“We would like Google to expedite the process of website removal once it is requested by qualified authorities to save from the possible damage of time, as it will not correct the situation if we wait for the court process,” said the government committee.
The document revealed that Google refused to budge, ruling out making a procedural exception for Thailand. As a matter of global policy, the company does not take down content unless formally ordered by a court.
The committee, according to the document, pressed Google to consider the U.S.-Thailand relationship, and explicitly offered to help Google with its business in the country.
“Also if there is any problem or concern about Google’s business in Thailand, and you want us to help, please let the Thai government know. The committee is ready to push and help as much as we can,” it said.
This new development comes after the recent revelation that Thai police intend to spend over US$300,000 to set up a social media surveillance system. The system would monitor posts and track users on Facebook, Twitter, and Pantip (a massively popular online forum in Thailand).
Thailand already has one of the strictest Internet censorship regimes in Southeast Asia. Freedom House, a U.S. civil liberties watchdog organization, scored Thailand at 63 for Internet freedom in 2015 (the higher score, the less free the country). That puts it behind neighbors Malaysia (43), Singapore (41), Indonesia (42), and Cambodia (48).